Hate Speech Is Not Free Speech

Muawad Mustafa Rashid

Hate speech is defined as “public speech that expresses hate or encourages violence towards a person or group based on something such as race, religion, sex, or sexual orientation”.

Around the world, we are seeing a disturbing groundswell of xenophobia, racism and intolerance.

Hate is moving into the mainstream – in liberal democracies and authoritarian systems alike.

And with each broken norm, the pillars of our common humanity are weakened. Hate speech is a menace to democratic values, social stability and peace.

As more and more communication takes place in digital form, the full range of public conversations are moving online — in groups and broadcasts, in text and video, even with emoji.

These discussions reflect the diversity of the human experience: some are enlightening and informative, others are humorous and entertaining, and others still are political or religious.

Some can also be hateful and ugly.

Hate speech is anything that directly attacks people based on what are known as their “protected characteristics” — race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, sex, gender, gender identity, or serious disability or disease.

In Sudan, there is a lot of controversy and debate around hate speech when it comes to the law because the constitutional document protects freedom of speech. The lines between having a “right to say anything” and hate speech can become increasingly blurry, especially in the age of cyber-bullying and harassment both in the real world and online.

Currently, Sudan has no concrete law that addresses or prevents hate speech.

Sometimes the law may get involved if the hate speech is perceived as a genuine threat to harm, but most of the time there’s not much anyone can do legally.

However, just because it isn’t technically considered a crime according to law, that doesn’t mean that hate speech doesn’t influence society.

Some have argued that inflammatory public speech increases before outbreaks of mass violence, which could suggest that hate speech is a precursor or even a prerequisite for violence.

Words, name-calling, hateful phrases, casual racist comments – they all have an impact, especially if those words become convincing to a large number of people.

Vector illustration – Reprimand/For vecteezy-alashi

Curbing Hate Speech

One of the ways we can fight hate speech is by speaking up about equality, inclusivity, and diversity. Some refer to this method as counter speech. The more we can undermine hate speech with loving words, logical arguments, and truth-telling, the more that hate speech will begin to lose its power.

Another method that can combat hate speech is education.

When it comes to bullying, cyber-bullying, harassment, and hate crimes, the more people are educated on these issues, the more we can prevent them in the future.

Speak out against hate speech – fight racism and bigotry with love, empathy, compassion, and strength.

We may not be able to eliminate hatred entirely, but the more steps we can take to educate and support human beings, and speak out against injustice, the better this world will become.

There are times someone might share something that would otherwise be considered hate speech but for non-hateful reasons, such as making a self-deprecating joke or quoting lyrics from a song. People often use satire and comedy to make a point about hate speech.

These days, there are early signs of a campaign of hate speech that would serve as fuel to the violence rolling out across the country.

As a matter of principle, the government must confront hate speech at every turn. Silence can signal indifference to bigotry and intolerance, even as a situation escalates and the vulnerable become victims.

Hate groups still run rampant across social media platforms, a new report has warned. The social networks are particularly being criticized for their over-reliance on artificial intelligence and for cutting their number of human moderators, counter to experts’ recommendations.

It is high time for all of us to sit down, talk to each other, reconcile, and see how to overcome hatred and hate speech.

We propose launching a national workshop which brings together experts, community leaders, and religious leaders, to help the communities identify hate speech and begin to develop strategies on how to mitigate its efforts.

To be able to combat hate speech properly, we should involve those who are victims and those who are part of the population, too.

However, denying the existence of hate speech in the community is a matter of scale, as people see what happens between different communities as the bigger problem.

As a matter of fact, no community is immune to hate speech, hence the importance of such workshops, because we need to create awareness and acknowledgement of this fact.

 All leaders, be they political, religious, or community leaders; if they change their language, they’ll change the lives of the people and they’ll change the situation. But if they speak otherwise, it’ll just be a vicious cycle.

Every time hate speech is permitted, it costs someone his or her life, part of their self-respect, or part of their sanity. It rips people to shreds and destroys society. Hate speech is anything but free.

Back to top button